Special budget report: Unions fighting against governor's budget cuts

The governor's budget proposal has plenty of people up in arms -- and few more so than the state's most powerful unions.

The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Civil Service Employees Union (CSEA) have all launched campaigns criticizing the governor's budget, saying it cuts necessary programs and doesn't explore alternative options for additional revenue.

"This budget cuts services to the people who need them most," said Denise Cleary of the Syracuse chapter of the SEIU, Local 200 United. "It does not help us."

"It perpetuates the assault on the middle class," said Stephen Madarasz, director of communications for CSEA. "It cuts essential services to people who depend on them, and it ignores the inequities in the income tax system."

"We don't underestimate the seriousness of this once-in-a-lifetime financial crisis," said Richard Ianuzzi, president of NYSUT. "But we also can't discount the hard truth that the very future of a generation of students teeters on the edge [This proposal] would set schools back years."

NYSUT Vice President Alan Lubin echoed that statement.

"After all the progress our schools have made toward raising test scores and closing the achievement gap, budget cuts of this magnitude would set us back many, many years," Lubin said. "We cannot afford to jeopardize even a single year of a student's time in school."

Most importantly, the budget may cut state costs, but it doesn't help taxpayers.

"This just shifts the property tax burden from the state to the local and municipal level," Madarasz said. "Taxpayers aren't going to see a big difference."

All three unions support the so-called millionaires' tax, which would assess a higher tax rate on those New Yorkers earning more than $1 million a year.

"Right now, you and I pay the same tax rate as a millionaire," Cleary said. "That's not fair. The state has this huge potential source of income that it's not tapping into, and that's money that can be used to invest in jobs and put back into the state."

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